The birth of a new business or the re-branding of an existing business invariably raises the question: "What should I name my business?". In today's world, often the answer will depend upon what domain name is available. However, beyond the issue of domain name, the business owner should consider whether his chosen name is the subject of a trademark registration and, if he chooses to incorporate his business, whether it is possible to register this name.
Identical or Similar Names
For Hong Kong companies, a search of the Companies Registry will indicate whether a company has already been registered under that chosen name or a name similar to it. Under the Companies Ordinance, a company cannot be incorporated with the same name as another existing company. The Registrar of Companies has the power to direct a company to change its name where its name, at the time of its incorporation, is too similar to another company which was already incorporated.
Under the Companies Ordinance, a company cannot be incorporated with a name the use of which would, in the opinion of the Registrar of Companies:
constitute a criminal offence;
be offensive or contrary to public interest; or
would be likely to give the impression that it is connected with the Government of Hong Kong or the Government of the People's Republic of China ("PRC").
In the latter respect, words such as "department", "government", "commission", "bureau", "federation", "council" or "authority" would generally be regarded as being suggestive of a connection with the Government of Hong Kong or the Government of the PRC.
Restricted Words and Expressions
Under the Companies Ordinance, except with the approval of the Registrar of Companies, a company cannot be incorporated with a name that contains any of the following words or expressions:
chamber of commerce
Laws in Hong Kong other than the Companies Ordinance may restrict the inclusion of certain other words and expressions in the name of a Hong Kong company. For example, the Banking Ordinance restricts the inclusion of the word "bank" in any name except the name of a regulated bank and the Securities and Futures Ordinance restricts the inclusion of the phrase "stock exchange" in any name.
Unlike some other jurisdictions, Hong Kong does not provide any means to reserve a name. In the case of a new company, the only way to secure a name is to apply to incorporate a company under that name. In the case of an existing company which proposes to change its name, the only way to secure the name is to register the change of name with the Companies Registry.
The name of every Hong Kong company must end in the word "Limited", if the name is an English name, or the Chinese equivalent if the name is a Chinese name. Designations such as "Incorporated", "Inc", "Corporation", "Corp" and similar nomenclature used in other jurisdictions cannot substitute for the word "Limited".
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Timothy Loh Corporate Services has experience in the incorporation of companies and in changes in the names of companies.